Digest>Archives> Nov/Dec 2013

Keeper’s Korner

Editorial and Tidbits from the Tower

By Timothy Harrison


Nuclear Lighthouse Generator Missing

Two lethal radioactive Strontium-90 source nuclear generators once used at two Soviet lighthouses were recently reported to have disappeared. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a major effort has been undertaken, especially by Norway, to secure nuclear generators at many of these former Soviet Union lighthouses. The Russian Hydrographical Agency that is responsible for Russian lighthouses made the recent announcement to the Atomic Energy Commission through the Kurchatov Institute.

The first generator that was reported missing was from a lighthouse on Lishniy Island in the eastern Kara Sea. The island belongs to Severnaya Zemlya archipelago north of the Taimyr Peninsula. It is believed that this 700-pound (318 kg) nuclear generator was washed out to sea in a storm that also reportedly took the lighthouse. However, a second missing nuclear generator was located at a lighthouse on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Reports indicate that there are currently 56 lighthouses with nuclear generators still operating in the western and central part of the Northern Sea Route, from the Yamal Peninsula in the west, to the New Siberia Islands in the east.

50 Year Congrats

Congratulations to the folks at Wisconsin’s Eagle Bluff Lighthouse who celebrated 50 years of having their lighthouse open to the public. It was way back on September 1, 1963, after a three-year restoration project, that the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse opened its doors to the public. For their 50 year celebration an actor portraying the wife of lighthouse keeper, William Duclon, who was a keeper there for 35 years, was on hand to greet visitors. Capt. Duclon would have been proud. (Photo by David P. Helfand)

Choptank River License Plate

If you live in the state of Maryland, you can now get an automobile license plate featuring the Choptank River Lighthouse. Well, not exactly, but its close. The new license plate actually features the logo of the replica of the Choptank River Lighthouse. The plate costs $50, but half of the proceeds go toward the Lighthouse Capital Improvement Fund for the acquisition of authentic artifacts for the Choptank River Lighthouse. What a neat idea!

20,000 and Counting

Lighthouse Digest subscriber Robert J. Andrews recently had a lighthouse post card exhibit at the Davisville Free Library in North Kingston, Rhode Island. But the exhibit was only a small part of his collection of 20,000 different lighthouse post cards. If you’d like to share a lighthouse post card with him from your area you can mail it to him at Robert Andrews, P.O. Box 6782, Providence, RI 02940.

More Irish Lights to Open

The Commissioner for Irish Lights has announced plans to open the doors of more of its lighthouses to the public as part of the “All Island Lighthouse Trail.” Six lighthouses in the Republic are already offering tourist accommodations, but the eventual plan is to have 15 to 20 lighthouses open to the public, with the first phase to be the opening of five lighthouses.

New Life for Stepping Stones

After the federal government asked for the keys back from the town of North Hempstead for the Stepping Stones Lighthouse, a new group has been formed to save the lighthouse. The federal government wanted the ownership of the lighthouse taken away from the town because they had made no effort to restore the structure since they received ownership of it in 2008. The new group, Northeast Lighthouse Preservation Group, is under the leadership of Pamela Setchell, who led the group that successfully saved the Huntington Lighthouse. (Photo by Francine Dollinger)

Restaurant for Cape Forchu

The folks who run Canada’s Cape Forchu Lighthouse, more commonly known as the Yarmouth Lighthouse, in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia hope to soon install a full service restaurant at the light station. The plan calls for major removal and reconstruction of interior walls of the keeper’s house to accommodate the restaurant, which they believe will enhance the site. The light station will still have a gift shop that will be moved as part of the plans. The Yarmouth Lighthouse is at the top of the list of Nova Scotia Lighthouses to visit. (Photo by David Siegelman)

Hatteras Firefighters Climb Tower

This past September 11, many firefighters from various departments on Hatteras Island, North Carolina, wearing full gear, climbed the 247 steps to the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, America’s tallest lighthouse, to honor the memory of 343 of their brethren who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Jeffrey Delmonte, deputy chief of the Buxton Volunteer Fire Department, who organized the Memorial Stair Climb on the 12th anniversary of the attack, said he hopes this will now become an annual event.

Pink Tower to Go Red

The U.S. Coast Guard says it intends to spend $100,000 to restore the Algoma Pierhaed Lighthouse, which stands at the entrance to the Ahnapee River in Algoma, Wisconsin. The lighthouse, which is supposed to be red, is now a faded pink. The tower will be stripped down to its original metal before new red paint will bring it back to its glory. The work is expected to take place in the spring of 2014. (Photo by Yvette Dills)

Muskegon Light Draws Large Crowds

Interest to get a rare chance to get inside Muskegon South Pier Lighthouse this past August overwhelmed the volunteers of the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy. So many people showed up, that by 8 pm in the evening some people had to be turned away. Hopefully the large turn-out will generate into dollars and more volunteers for the lighthouse. Wouldn’t it be nice if all these people, new to lighthouses, would also subscribe to Lighthouse Digest? (Photo by Paulette St. Clair)

Kincardine Lighthouse in Danger

Canada’s picturesque Kincardine Lighthouse is in danger. Jim Cooper of the Kincardine of the Kincardine Lighthouse Museum said that although the lighthouse is not in imminent danger, it soon will be if repairs are not soon made, especially to the crumbling foundation. Work was supposed to be done this year, but the project got bumped by the local municipality until 2014. The lighthouse, located at the mouth of the Penetagore River on Lake Huron at Kincardine, Ontario, was leased to the local yacht club which runs a museum at the lighthouse and keeps it open to the public.

Mourning the loss of Raymond “Skip” Empey

We are saddened to report on the passing of long time lighthouse friend Raymond F. Empey, Jr., age 73, known to us simply as “Skip.” He was one of the first people we met years ago when we first got involved with lighthouses. Skip was one of the most knowledgeable persons on lighthouse history, and he travelled all over the world to visit and research lighthouses. He was also an avid collector of just about anything with lighthouses and was widely known for his collection of lighthouse postage stamps from around the world. Skip could often be seen at lighthouse events wearing his trademark vest that was covered with lighthouse patches and pins

Two of his lighthouse “buddies,” John Forbes and Bill Vale, whom he travelled with frequently to lighthouse events and lighthouses and who were often dinner guests of Skip and his wife, Martha, both recently preceded him in death.

Skip was a staunch member and supporter of the major lighthouse groups, as well as the Friends of Boston Harbor Islands, where he narrated many of their cruises.

He is survived by his wife, Martha, three sons, one daughter, 13 grandchildren, and one great grandchild. Our sincere condolences go out to his wife, family, and friends. The lighthouse community has lost a true friend.

New Owner in Milwaukee

Under the guidelines of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, the ownership of the 1922 Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse in Milwaukee, Wisconsin has been awarded to Optima Enrichment, a nonprofit based out of Brookfield, Wisconsin. It is estimated that it will cost $2.5 million to restore the lighthouse. The nonprofit group plans to open the lighthouse to the public by 2016. (Photo by Susan Baatz)

Stonington Gets Grant Money

The Old Lighthouse Museum at the former Stonington Harbor Lighthouse in Stonington, Connecticut has received a $9,983 grant from Connecticut Humanities and $3,978 from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for new exhibits and to upgrade old exhibits. A museum has been in the 1840 lighthouse since 1925. Hopefully one of those new exhibits will honor the late Louise Pittaway who was a long time curator of the museum. (Photo by Roberta Powers)

Stonington Expansion Questioned

The historical society that manages the Old Stonington Museum has been planning a $2 million expansion that would include an 827-square foot glass enclosed addition to the lighthouse. However, some local residents are questioning the scope of the expansion. The two groups plan to meet to work out their differences with some type of compromise.

Umpqua River Volunteer Is Lost

James “Jim” C. Akre, one of the most beloved and dedicated volunteers at the Umpqua River Lighthouse in Reedsport, Oregon, has passed away at the age of 64 after a battle against a type of cancer. As a local coach, teacher, and historian, he was a friend to everyone in the community. In 1990 he was named Oregon’s Coach of the Year. Although he belonged to various volunteer organizations, his labor of love was reported to be the Umpqua River Lighthouse, and he never resisted a moment to share the history of the lighthouse with anyone and everyone. Our sincere condolences go out to his family and friends. Volunteers like Jim leave a legacy that is the responsibility of others to continue.

Money Executed for Roof

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has awarded a $22,500 grant to help pay for a new roof at Execution Rocks Lighthouse in Western Long Island Sound. The 1850 lighthouse has been owned since 2009 by Historically Significant Structures.

Objections for More Money for Point Abino

Although $1.3 million has been spent to restore the Point Abino Lighthouse that is owned by the Town of Fort Erie, Canada, the Point Abino Lighthouse Preservation group wants the town to spend more money to fully restore the interior of the lighthouse to make it safe and insurable for people to climb the tower. However the town’s fire chief is against the idea, saying it would be too difficult to rescue someone from the top of the tower should an emergency occur. If everyone thought that way, every lighthouse, anywhere in the world, would never be open to the public. Located on the north shore of Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada, the Town of Lake Erie acquired the 1917 lighthouse in 2003. Currently, the lighthouse can only be viewed by the general public twice a month from June to September by scheduled tours that cost $6.00 to allow access through the gated community to the lighthouse.

Citizens Make a Difference at Beachy Head Lighthouse

In 2011 when the penny pinchers at the Corporation of Trinity House, the organization that oversees the lighthouses of England, Wales and some other lighthouses elsewhere, said that they would no longer paint the red and white bands of the 1902 Beachy Head Lighthouse a public outcry occurred. Trinity House said the red and white stripes, now used as a day-mark, were no longer needed by mariners and they would let the colors fade because the cost of paint could not be justified for the 142-foot tall tower located in the water three miles southeast of Eastbourne. So the local citizenry did what their government did not even try to do - they raised some money and got others to donate time and materials. The historic lighthouse’s historic red and white paints are reinstated and now protected using a range of specially formulated marine coatings jointly donated by United Kingdom’s Crown Paints and its parent company Hempal AS in Denmark. This proves again what can be done when people band together for a good cause.

Spurn Point to be Restored

Thanks to a $750,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the 1895 Spurn Point High Lighthouse located on the north side of the entrance to the Humber River in Yorksire, England will be restored. The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which now owns the disused lighthouse, plans to open the lighthouse to the public once restoration is completed.

Keeper of the Quarter

Congratulations to Earl Soles, Jr. of the New Point Comfort Lighthouse Preservation Task Force who was honored by being named Keeper of the Quarter by the U.S. Lighthouse Society. He was so honored for his efforts to try and save the 58-foot tall 1806 New Point Comfort Lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay in Bavon, Virginia. The lighthouse is currently on the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List of Endangered lighthouses.

This story appeared in the Nov/Dec 2013 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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